Federal appeals court overturns FCC indecency decision

Federal appeals court overturns FCC indecency decision

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York on Monday vacated [opinion, PDF] a determination [FCC order] by the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) [official website] that Fox Television broadcasts violated the FCC's indecency and profanity prohibitions. The appeals court ruled that the FCC's "fleeting expletives" standard "represented a significant departure from positions previously taken by the agency and relied on by the broadcast industry," and violated the Administrative Procedure Act [text] because the FCC failed to articulate a reasoned basis for its change in policy. The court also found that the FCC failed to provide "any explanation for why" the separate ban on profanity was necessary, which was not regulated by the FCC prior to 2004.

The two alleged indecency violations were unscripted expletives uttered during the 2002 and 2003 Billboard Music Awards. Fox challenged the FCC's determination, saying during oral arguments [JURIST report] that the FCC's decency standard was unclear and violated free speech protections. Reuters has more.